- 27 Apr 21
Cultural institutions and creativity take centre stage in the Government’s new commemoration programme.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Catherine Martin have announced the Government's 2021 Programme for the Decade of Centenaries.
The major new project is set to mark key events in Irish history leading up to, and including, the momentous events of 1912-1923.
The programme includes a permanent new 20th Century History of Ireland exhibition; substantial investment in new exhibitions and artistic commissions in the National Cultural Institutions to mark key centenaries; State Commemoration to mark the centenary of the Truce; funding for local authorities to support community-led commemorative initiatives and new releases of digitised national and local archival collections.
Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) and the Crawford Art Gallery will lead new initiatives, including new commissions, symposia, exhibitions and outreach activities.
New creative partnerships, including with Fighting Words and the Irish Poetry Reading Archive, are also featured on the 2021 programme, as well as support for 'Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury; research project.
The new 20th Century History of Ireland Galleries will be based at the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History at Collins Barracks in Dublin. The upcoming exhibition will open in 2023, coinciding with the centenary of the foundation of the Irish Free State.
The National Museum of Ireland's project will also demonstrate the important legacy of the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 Programme, with Minister Catherine Martin’s department contributing €2.2m in capital funding to the work.
The cross-governmental programme highlights the significant centenaries arising this year and related themes, including the Burning of the Custom House on 25th May 1921; Partition, the Truce on 11th July 1921, The Anglo-Irish Treaty Negotiations and the Signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6th December 1921.
“The aim of commemoration should be to broaden sympathies without having to abandon loyalties," an Taoiseach, Micheál Martin said.
"We share an island where, contested history can be a barrier to mutual accommodation and the reconciliation necessary to our shared future."
“History cannot be a dehumanised, reductive, simplistic, or self-serving narrative," an Taoiseach added.
"And when we look back to a period of conflict we must be especially careful to recall that history is the complex story of individual men and women, their lives, their flaws, their strengths, their struggle and their suffering, however they identified, whatever uniform they wore.”
The programme will remain a living document and will be updated as new proposals and partnerships are confirmed in 2021. It will continue to be supported by the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations and by the Minister’s engagement with the All-Party Consultation Group on Commemorations.
“We are now in the most sensitive and complex period of commemoration, as the State marks the centenaries of the Struggle for Independence, Partition, Civil War, and the Foundation of the State," Minister Catherine Martin said today.
"My responsibility is to ensure that these significant events in our shared history are remembered with an appropriate, meaningful, proportionate and sensitive programme, which recognises the legitimacy of all traditions, and values mutual respect and historical authenticity."
"The history of this period belongs to all of us and it is really important that we approach our remembrance of these events in a holistic way – seeking to understand how each impacted upon the next," Minister Martin added.
"For this reason, I have taken a three-year approach to planning this final phase of the Decade of Centenaries. This is the first in a series of three programmes – all with a common set of broad themes and partnerships."
According to Catherine Heaney, Chair of the National Museum of Ireland, the 20th Century History of Ireland Galleries will offer an important opportunity for a wider public consultation process.
“The project will hopefully ensure that the exhibition is relevant and engaging to multiple audiences and identities within our communities. The NMI is committed to ongoing engagement and dialogue with the public, and particularly those voices traditionally under-represented in narratives of our recent history."
Dr. Maurice Manning, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations, expressed his hope for a genuinely inclusive spirit.
"Terrible atrocities took place during these years, which must be considered very carefully, grounded in the evidence of factual, authentic archival sources," Dr Manning stated.
"Commemoration does not signify celebration and inclusivity does not imply approval of the events that took place. We all have a responsibility to continue our exploration of our past with sensitivity, curiosity and empathy; embracing all of its nuances and complexities in an inclusive and respectful manner. In all that we do, we must continue to strive for respectful, measured, non-partisan remembrance, which promotes peace and reconciliation across the island of Ireland."
The Decade of Centenaries Programme for 2021 can be viewed here in full.
An Taoiseach @MichealMartinTD, Tánaiste @leovaradkar & Minister @cathmartingreen have announced the 2021 Programme for the Decade of @Centenaries at the @NMIreland Decorative Arts & History. https://t.co/NrvWwpvPRj
— Tourism-Culture-Arts-Gaeltacht-Sport-Media (@DeptCulturelRL) April 27, 2021